We all understand the fundamental framework. People of like race, heritage, beliefs, and disposition cohere into nations. Nations demarcate physical boundaries to protect human and natural resources from hostile incursion. They form a state to coordinate activities in promotion of the nation’s interests and welfare. From this, statesmen are empowered as proxies so that yeomen may tend to livelihoods rather than standing on porches with rifles. To this end, an army is raised. An army with one core purpose: to defend the nation.
To defend the nation. Not to spy on it, desegregate it, or propagandize it. Not for diversity, female empowerment, rainbow platoons, or transgender liberation. Not to litter the oceans with aircraft carriers, bomb Iraq on a bi-monthly basis, or garrison every country with the letter “a.” The only purpose is to protect citizens so that they may earn a living instead of forming picket lines on the border. But instead the American army wiles away its days bombing sand into slurry, hiking in the Hindu Kush, and spending $billions on weapons alchemy. All this being of proximate utility to the nation as an anus on its forehead. A half dozen Mexico-facing musket battalions would serve more capably at a nanofraction of the cost.
At least that was my brief thought carousel upon first reading this article on Britain’s new 77th Brigade of social media warriors. The Luftwaffe never faced a foe so formidable.
The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age.
The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong and formed of units drawn from across the army. It will formally come into being in April.
The brigade will be responsible for what is described as non-lethal warfare. Both the Israeli and US army already engage heavily in psychological operations.
Against a background of 24-hour news, smartphones and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the force will attempt to control the narrative.
Non-lethal only if you believe flame wars don’t kill. But just savor this on the palette for a moment. 1,500 “soldiers” are to mount fearless assaults on facebook. And the barrage of lethal tweets will fall upon the enemy like artillery shells at Ihantala. The very special force will be tasked by Field Marshal Sigmoid Oscopy with capturing “The Narrative.” This being a narrow isthmus forming the only land bridge between reality and liberalism.
The 77th will include regulars and reservists and recruitment will begin in the spring. Soldiers with journalism skills and familiarity with social media are among those being sought.
An army spokesman said: “77th Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare. It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent.”
Attracting an overwhelming number of “likes” on a facebook post can demoralize an enemy and rout them from the battlefield.
The Israel Defence Forces have pioneered state military engagement with social media, with dedicated teams operating since Operation Cast Lead, its war in Gaza in 2008-9. The IDF is active on 30 platforms – including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram – in six languages. “It enables us to engage with an audience we otherwise wouldn’t reach,” said an Israeli army spokesman.
I wonder if Pig Latin is one of the IDF’s six fluent tongues. If so, I need to pass a brief encoded message to my handler: The gigsay is upsay. Utshsay it downay.
But far more important than Israeli outreach, is understanding toward whom that molded narrative from the British 77th will be directed. Who will be the targets of misinformation, deception, and redirection. Who will endure manufactured discord and false allies. Whose movements will be obliged to evade hostile subversion. Exactly whom will the 77th view as its comment war enemy?